‘Scoring guard’ Jimmer Fredette sees Pelicans as ideal fit

by Jim Eichenhofer

Ryan Anderson and Jimmer Fredette share the same agent and have become friends, so it wasn’t uncommon for the two to grab dinner in New Orleans whenever Fredette’s Sacramento Kings visited the Crescent City. During one conversation, a curious Fredette asked Anderson how the power forward liked playing in the Big Easy.

“He had all positives to say,” Fredette remembered of Anderson’s response. “He said, ‘I love the city. It’s great people, a great organization, the guys on the team are fun to be around and there are no egos. Everybody’s playing for the team and playing to win.’ ”

When Fredette, a three-year NBA veteran, entered unrestricted free agency this summer, Anderson’s glowing report was in the back of his mind. The 25-year-old former college phenom at BYU officially signed with the New Orleans Pelicans on July 24, after splitting last season between Sacramento and Chicago.

“I didn’t get to talk to Ryan during the (free agency) decision-making process, but I had talked to him a lot before that, when I was on the Kings,” Fredette said. “He really liked his experience here. That was cool for me to hear. Going into this offseason, I remembered him saying that, so that played a part into it (signing with New Orleans).”

After playing less each season as his NBA career has progressed, from 1,135 minutes as a rookie to just 519 minutes in 2013-14, the 6-foot-2 guard was looking for an opportunity to be on the court more. The upstate New York native also wanted to find a team that believed he could be an important part of their plans.

“A big part of it was that the organization really wanted me to be there,” Fredette said. “That’s something you’re always looking for. You want to be wanted. You want to be on a team where they think you can really help them. I really liked that about New Orleans. But I also think New Orleans has a great, young group of guys that can be very, very good this year. Last year, they were a little bit injury-plagued, but I think this year, if guys can stay healthy and things go the way that they’re planned, we could be a very good team. I’m excited about that. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Fredette believes the Pelicans are also an ideal fit for his game because of the makeup of their roster, which includes several feared offensive players who can attack the basket and command attention from defenders. Fredette, a career 40.1 percent shooter from three-point range, could fill a similar floor-spacing role as Anthony Morrow, who thrived last season with the Pelicans before signing with Oklahoma City as a free agent.

“I had definitely looked into that,” Fredette said, when asked about the Morrow comparison. “Obviously when he and Brian Roberts left (to sign with Charlotte), a couple spots opened up here. I think that I can provide that type of shooting from the bench. I think that’s what the team was kind of looking for and that’s why they were interested in me. They thought I could be a great part of this team. So I realized that and thought it was a great opportunity for me, and hopefully the organization.”

Fredette has played eight career games vs. New Orleans, shooting 47.4 percent from three-point range. He monitored the Pelicans from afar last season, taking note of their talented and youthful core. He believed they had potential to be a dangerous team entering 2013-14, but injuries prevented the Pelicans from contending for a playoff berth.

“Anthony Davis obviously is a great player who was an All-Star last year,” Fredette said. “Jrue Holiday two years ago was an All-Star. So they have a great, young group of guys. Tyreke Evans, who I played with in Sacramento for two years, was Rookie of the Year. Eric Gordon is a great scorer. They have a lot of guys that can really play and are young and coming up together. So I’m excited about this team. I think I fit in really well, being able to create space for these guys and knock down shots and score the basketball when I have that opportunity. I think it fits really well.”

The departures of Morrow and Roberts left openings in the Pelicans’ backcourt rotation that Fredette could partly fill. He’s rotated between point guard and shooting guard as a pro; he believes he’ll continue to do so with his new team.

“Coach (Monty) Williams said that he sees me as a ‘scoring guard,’ on-ball or off the ball,” Fredette said. “I’m sure I’ll play both (positions) at different times. That’s kind of the way it’s been for my career. I feel comfortable at both spots. So whatever can get me on the floor the most, that’s what I’m willing to do. He sees me as a scoring guard, being able to come in and help the team, score the basketball and make plays for myself, but also for teammates. That’s kind of how they see me. That’s how I see myself, as a guy who can supply offense and help the team.”